|July 1, 2014|
It didn't take me long to realize that the first half of my 20s was about learning how to say no when I needed to. That lesson carried with it the conviction that I am 100% replaceable. The fact is, if I don't do something, someone else most definitely will. If they don't, then it wasn't as important as it seemed.
Learning to say no without any guilt following me around afterwards was so freeing. I spent my teenage years saying yes to everything. I was always working or out with friends or playing sports and did my best to make sure I was spending plenty of time with my brothers and sister. In high school, my main group of friends and I split ways and I stopped playing sports at school. I took on a bunch of afternoon jobs and for a while I felt like an actual chicken with my head cut off.
When I started college, I realized something had to give. I couldn't do EVERYTHING well and doing what I did well was super important to me. So, I started evaluating priorities and long term goals and made some decisions. Saying no was very, very difficult at first. I always felt like I had to have a good reason for saying no and was always sharing that reason with whoever I had to disappoint.
Then, I realized...I didn't have to do that. There doesn't always have to be a "good" reason. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes you need that night at home to recharge. Sometimes one thing just outweighs another. Being able to say no without feeling guilty about it was one thing, being able to get past believing that I had to explain myself was something else entirely.
The two go hand in hand. Somehow, both became true of me. I learned to say no and explaining the why behind my decision was no longer a default. Lesson learned, things should be smooth sailing from here, right?
These days, I've put my finger on what's next. While the first half of my 20s was about learning to SAY no, the second half is proving to about being able to be TOLD no. It was really hard and it's not that it's getting easier, but I'm learning to think differently about it. When you get told no, you can't necessarily take it personally.
Sometimes, you DO need to hear the no and realize that you've got some work to do, but a lot of times, it's simply someone else evaluating their life and saying no because it's best for them. With every no I've said, it's rarely about the person who has asked for a yes and more about who I am and where I am and where I'm going in that moment. I need to grant the same right to the people whose yes I'm asking for.
It's not just people either. God also has a way of telling us no. It's easy to get excited about opportunities and possibilities and everything always falling into place. It's easy when what's meant to be is happening so clearly. Sometimes, what's meant to be takes a struggle. And I think it's a struggle when we push against the no He's already told us. Not necessarily foolishly either.
You meet someone who seems so nice and so you ask them to coffee or you try to plan a get together or you simply attempt to talk to them after church. It doesn't take you long to figure out that they're just not into it. It might be you or it might be them. You see a job opportunity and you go for it and the interview goes well and yet they pass you up. You pray for things to change and hearts stay exactly the same and maybe even grow colder and harder than you had seen in a long time. You see a car that seems worth looking at only to find out that it has been sitting so long that it won't even start.
Can you tell I'm in the thick of it? I've heard no so many times lately, both from the lips of people and from God Himself by way of stops He's been putting in my path, that each one that gets piled on top of the ones I've already heard comes close to sending me into hysterical laughter.
I know how to say no, but I'm still learning how to accept no as an answer. I'm not sure if you just brush it off and move on. I'm not sure how to tell when it's not a firm no and when it's a not yet. I'm not sure if you're supposed to know the difference or if you just move along either way without giving it a second thought.
I'm thinking the lesson here is in not giving up. The lesson being able to accept a no carries with it is being able to trust God. We trust Him to direct our path and we trust Him with the decisions other people make. It's difficult.
There was a day when saying no seemed impossible. Looking back on the years it took me to be able to do it so well is granting me hope that it's possible to do this well too.
I'm not sure how many more nos I'll have to endure. I'm not sure how much disappointment I'll have to get over. I only know that no matter what it looks like or seems like or feels like, God is taking me through life. He's teaching me how to respond and I'm confident that He won't give up.
In fact, I'll remember this decade as the one that taught me to look to Him.